To be honest, I hadn’t thought about Dr. Ruth Westheimer in many years until I saw her name up on the Buskirk-Chumley Theater marquee this week. For that matter, neither I nor the people I told about seeing her name in lights were even aware she was still alive. That sent me flying to the University of Google where I learned she is a spritely 88 years old.
A Herald Times story this morning about her appearance in Bloomington reports she doesn’t like seeing couples walking hand in hand on campus while each stares at and thumbs a smartphone.
Acc’d’g to reporter Abby Tonsing, Westheimer called the constant concentration on smartphone screens an addiction. “Look how they walk across campus,” Tonsing quotes her. “They don’t see anybody.”
Loyal Pencillistas know I’m a proud Luddite when it comes to texting, even though I finally relented this summer and got a smartphone. I have a data plan with a monthly limit and have yet to use even as much as a tenth of the data I’m allowed in a single month. That’s because I don’t text and I refuse to take other people’s texts.
I’m fairly certain that if I did start getting into the texting thing, I’d become as addicted as anyone else and I truly do not want to do that. I much prefer seeing the sky, the birds, fellow pedestrians, the driver next to me, the leaves on the trees, and the direction in which the clouds are scuttling across the sky. I’m afraid if I get sucked into the text universe, I’ll lose all those things. Let me explain: years ago, I swore to all the gods in all the heavens I wouldn’t read newspapers or magazines online nor would I lower myself into the Facebook swamp. Now, in the year of their lord 2016, I only read newspapers and magazines online — I haven’t bought either in hard copy form in years — and I FB every day.
The LED screen is indeed addictive. I don’t need another monkey, in the form of texting, on my back. I watch kids and adults gawking at their smartphone screens to the exclusion, as Dr. Ruth implies, of everything else in the universe. I have to assume these folks have no idea how far west the sun is setting these days, how subtly the leaves on the trees have begun to turn a dull green, and whether or not they are canopied by cirrus or cumulus clouds at the moment.
It’s always been terribly important to me to know all these things. I watch for signs of them them every year; they serve as landmarks for the passage of time. When I was a little kid, my friends and I every September would watch traffic with the diligence of FBI agents on the lookout for spies, searching for the new car models to appear. Whichever one of us managed to espy the new year’s Plymouth Fury, for instance, or the latest Chevrolet Biscayne would be hailed as a sharp-eyed master indeed.
Now, of course, I’m drawn to more natural appearances of things. The sun, the moon, leaves, summer birds, and so on. It’s still the same thing. Sometime next week, the sun will set almost precisely due west, right down the center of the roadway as we drive in that direction around a quarter to eight in the evening. I’ll hope to be driving that day and time just so I can say I’ve seen it. Don’t ask me to justify the attempt any more than I have already; I just want to do it.
Most of the rest of humanity will simply thumb in a google query to find out when sunset will be that day — that is, if they should have any wild desire to know it.
Me? I want to experience it.
Heads Up For Big Talk
If you’ve got a few spare minutes, pelase remember to listen in late this afternoon at about 5:45 as Bloomington Print Collective co-founder Danielle Urschel joins me as my guest on Big Talk.
Big Talk is a regular Thursday feature on the WFHB Daily Local News. You can click on the Big Talk tab up above to hear podcasts of previous editions as well as largely uncut Big Tracks of the original taping sessions.
Next week’s guest: Kristin Leaman-Morris Indiana University archivist for the state bicentennial celebration.
We Need It
This one’s always appropriate no matter if the year is 1965 or 2016. Written by the brilliant Bacharach/David team, the man behind the melody, Burt Bacharach, really didn’t like the song. B&D first offered it to Dionne Warwick who herself didn’t think much of it and so turned it down. Jackie DeShannon grabbed it and turned it into a big hit in ’65. Three years later, Warwick recorded it and then recorded it again nearly 30 years after that, in 1996. Only Warwick’s second recording charted, briefly, yet she seems more ID’d with the song than DeShannon who’s hardly remembered today.
Anyway, subsequent covers have been recorded by the likes of Judy Garland, Aimee Mann, Barry Manilow, Coldplay, and even the rickroller himself, Rick Astley.